Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just Like The Stars

I'm sound asleep, having a bizarre dream about trying to return an open box of candy, when I feel a light tap on my shoulder.

Greta is standing there, her big brown eyes wide and puffy, looking at me expectantly.  "I'm scared, Momma," she says.

I glance at the clock:   5:45am.   It is still dark out.   I feel a flash of irritation - why does she wake me up?  Why not Steve?   I prop up on one elbow, try to swallow my anger, and ask her what she is afraid of.

"I don't know," she says.  "I want Finn to wake up and be with me.  I don't want to be alone."

Finn, I notice now, is sound asleep next to me.  He must have crawled into our bed last night; I didn't even notice.

"Greta.  You are seven years old.   You are capable of playing in your room quietly until we wake up.   Or go back to sleep.  Or something.   I'm tired, it's too early.   Go back to your room."

Her lip quivers and one tear rolls down her cheek.   "But Momma, I'm really scared."

I can't contain my anger.   I clench my teeth and say, "Go.  Back.  To.  Your.  Room.  NOW."

She hangs her head and shuffles back to her room.   I flop back into my pillow.   I hear muffled crying, soft hiccuping sobs.     Don't go, I tell myself.   Don't indulge her.   She needs to learn to soothe herself. 

I can't go back to sleep.  I throw the covers back angrily, and march down the hall to her room.

"WHAT IS WRONG?"  I yell.  

She is lying on the floor, wrapped in her blanket, head under her pillow, surrounded by all her stuffed animals.   She looks so big and so small.

"You wouldn't understand.  Go back to bed.  I'm fine,"  she says. 

I'm looming in her doorway, hands on my hips, crazy with fatigue and irritation.    I start to turn away, head back to bed, and I hear her say, quietly, "Just leave me alone." 

I freeze, and my anger melts away.   I lie down on the floor next to her, pick up her pillow and rub her head.   "It's okay," I say.  "Tell me what is wrong."

She sits up, sniffling.  "I don't know what's wrong,   I just feel scared."

We're quiet for a minute or two, and then she says, "Sometimes I start thinking about stuff.   I start thinking about how I'm here, I'm alive, and I don't understand why."  

My heart does a little flip-flop.   I understand how she feels - oh, do I understand - and yet she needs me to be her Mom, to give her answers I don't have.   So I just tell her the truth.

"I know what you mean,"  I say.  "I think about that sometimes, too."

"You DO?"  She rubs her eyes.  "Did you think about it when you were seven, too?"

"Yes, I did," I reply.   "Sometimes things we don't understand are scary.    But when you think about it, they can be really beautiful, too."

She thinks for a moment.  "Like the stars?   They are beautiful, and I don't understand why they are there, either."

"Exactly like the stars,"  I say.   "We don't really know why they are there, but we're so glad they are, aren't we?   They make the world a more beautiful place.   And so do you."

She yawns.  "I think I'll just play with my stuffed animals, now," she says.  

"I'm sorry I got frustrated," I say.  "It's okay to be scared.   It's okay to tell me when you're scared." 

"I know," she says.  

I tiptoe back to my bed, my heart in my throat.    If her anxiety were a bullet, or a train, I'd gladly throw myself in front of it to keep her from fear, from pain.    But, of course, that urge comes from my own fears of letting go, allowing her to figure the world out on her own and understand that anxiety and fear are a part of life: it's how we process them is that matters most.

She teaches me so much, I think.   We're learning how to face our fears together.  


Friday, February 26, 2010

The Gift of The... well, Let's Just Call It The Gift

"MOM!  There's poop on the floor and it's not mine!"    I can't tell which child has yelled this to me from the next room.

I reluctantly walk to the playroom, and sure enough, there is a little round nugget sitting smack dab in the middle of the floor, like a marble from the wrong side of the tracks.

"Who does this belong to?"   I say through clenched teeth, as if ownership matters.

Three sets of blinking eyes look up at me:  Greta, Finn and Casper, our dog.    "Not me,"  Greta and Finn say simultaneously.  The dog perks her ears up and cocks her head, as if to say "I'm too cute to do something like that.  Can I have some cheese?"

Every inch of today has been a struggle, and I'm feeling sorry for myself.

It took ten minutes to put Finn's shoes on this morning, because he had a meltdown after I put his left shoe on first.  "NOOOOOOO.  DA OTHER SHOOOOOOOE FIRST! WAAAAAH!"  he sobbed over and over, curled in a tight little ball and refusing to budge.    Greta's self-selected outfit would have looked beautiful on Easter, but not a stormy, rainy freezing day in February.   Subsequent outfit selections are only marginally better, and she almost misses the bus.   

Finn and I run a few errands, which should take about an hour, but take two and a half hours because of his new "game".   Every time he gets out of the car he assumes a statue-like pose and won't move until I find the magic "button" on his body to unfreeze him.   Finn calls it "Fwozen Boy".   I call it "Momma's Trying To Stay Sober Here So Get Your Ass In Gear".      I made the mistake of giggling hystercially with him the first time he did it.   Three weeks ago.   Now the fun never ends. 

After school I battle with Greta about doing her homework, with Finn about the appropriate places to draw: NOT on the dog, your body or the wall, please, just on paper.   He finds the loophole and draws a rainstorm - on paper - with a dark blue marker he punches through the paper making dark round stains on the carpet.   I send him crying to his room, amending my ruling:   and not on the carpet, only on the TABLE!    

Because of less-than-stellar behavior I ban the television and computer for the rest of the day; this proves to punish only me because they follow me around, whining that there is no food in the house, nothing to do, I'm a Horrible Mean Mother.

We have a grocery delivery service.   Ordinarily, this is the best thing that ever happened to me - they bring your groceries right into your house! - but due to torrential winds and rain the delivery guy is late.   Really late.   There is, quite literally, nothing to serve for dinner.    Steve is away on a business trip; no reinforcements are forthcoming.   The whining and complaining escalates, and I lock myself in the bathroom, count to ten and try to ground myself.   

That's when they make their pronouncement about the unclaimed fecal matter on the floor.

So there I am, looking down at those three little sets of eyes, and I feel it well up inside - a tidal wave of frustration, anger and boredom.   My hands are clenched, my heart is racing.   I am so tired of one-step-forward-two-steps-back I want to scream, and I nearly do.  

Then, out of nowhere, I simply let it go.   The anger that has been coiling tighter and tighter inside me all day loosens, evaporates.

I start to laugh.   Greta and Finn look at each other, wondering if I have finally lost it, and maybe I have. Pointing to the unwanted little brown gift on the floor, I say  "Well, that solves the problem of what to have for dinner!"   I'm giggling uncontrollably.     The kids grin, uncertainly at first, then start laughing in earnest.    Together, we clean up the mess, wiping away tears of laughter about a song Finn spontaneously makes up about 'da doody on da fwoor'.       

The grocery delivery man arrives just as we finish cleaning up.  "What's so funny?"  he smiles, sending us into more peals of laughter.

Before getting in to bed, I take a moment to say a prayer of thanks.   I don't always remember to pray - most of the time I forget, in fact - but tonight I remember.

"Thank you," I whisper.   "Thank you for helping me let it go.   Thank you for the laughter.   Next time, though?   Feel free to deliver the message in a more, er, sanitary package."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fear

I'm eight years old, and I'm thirsty.   The house is dark, quiet - everyone is asleep.

I'm a big girl now, I think, I can go down and get a glass of water all by myself.    

I tiptoe into the hallway, cautiously, listening the the creaks and moans of our older house.    At the top of the stairs I peer down into the darkness below, and take a deep breath.   I am safe, I tell myself.   There are no monsters lurking in the shadows.   Monsters aren't real.

Squaring my shoulders, I walk confidently down the stairs - I can see myself as though from above:   a brave girl, a second grader, old enough to help herself.   In the kitchen I flick on the lights - a moment of blindness - then the darkness scurries into the corners.   I pour a glass of water, and decide to drink it standing at the kitchen sink, to show myself how brave I am.    As I'm gulping the water down, my eye falls on the darkened kitchen windows.   Was that a flicker of movement outside?  My heart quickens, but I stand firm.   I'm not scared, I tell myself, there is nothing to fear.   

As I rinse the glass and put it in the sink, I hear a creak, a groan.    I freeze.   Have I heard that noise before?   Is someone watching me?

Getting panicky now, I will myself to turn slowly away from the sink and walk back to the stairs.    I flick off the kitchen light, and the shadows leap up at me.  

I run.

I fly up the stairs, my nightgown streaming behind me, my heart thudding in my chest.   I am certain there is some thing close behind me, hunting me down.    I don't dare turn around - just RUN, I think.    I tear down the dimly lit hallway.   Just get to my bed, just get to my bed.  I'll be safe in my bed.

Just as I'm convinced ghostly cold fingers are about to wrap around my throat, I reach my bed.   I dive under the covers, making sure no stray foot or hand is hanging over the edge of the bed, where monsters could snatch them.

After about one minute, the comfort and familiarity of my bed soothe me, my fears shrink back, evaporate.   I chuckle to myself:  silly girl, I think.   There was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.

Now I am safe.

I'm thirty-four years old, and I'm anxious.   The house is bright, loud, chaotic.

It's 4pm, and uneasiness won't leave me.   It started earlier in the afternoon - a low rattle in the back of my head, a vague sense of impending doom.   My 6 month old daughter is screeching, nothing I do will soothe her.    Is something wrong?   Is she sick?   It has got to be me.   I'm doing something wrong.    I take her temperature, try to feed her.  Nothing works.   I'm scared.   I'm angry, I'm tired, and I'm so, so frustrated.    I glance at the clock - 4:30pm.  

I run.

I bundle her up, strap her into her bucket carrier, and drive to the corner store.   I buy two bottles of chardonnay, pay for them without looking the clerk in the eye, and tear back home.    My daughter is still crying, hiccuping, angry.     Leaving her strapped in her bucket seat, I open a bottle and pour myself a tumbler full of wine.   My heart is pounding.   Keeping my eyes closed I drink the whole glass, put it down on the counter, and wait.   

After about one minute, the comfort and familiarity of the wine soothe me.   My anxiety and anger shrink back, evaporate.

Poor thing, I think, she's just tired.   I pour myself a second tumbler of wine, sit on the floor and rock her in her carrier, humming to her until she falls asleep. I smile to myself as I picture the happy little scene we make.   What was I so worried about?   She just needs her mother.  There is nothing to be anxious about.

Now I am safe.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

God Loves Donuts

Finn, who is 4, has a little obsession with aging, death and God.    It doesn't help that to get just about anywhere in my town, we have to drive by the cemetary that is only about a 1/2 mile from our house.   Every time we go by, he talks about it.  A couple of days ago we had this exchange:

"Momma, dere's the cemetawy.   Dat's where people go when they die.   But I'm not going dere."

I've learned to keep my answers short, or to answer with a question.     I don't want to complicate matters, and most of his questions/statements aren't answerable, anyway.

"You're not going there?"

"Nope.   I'm going to stay a kid forevah, because I don't want to go in da cemetawy, and I don't want ahmpit hair."

"Everyone grows up, hon."

"Not me.  I talked to God about it, and He said dat's okay."

"So what age do you want to be forever?"

"Seven.  Like Sissy.  She gets to go on da bus."

Last week, as we passed the cemetary, he was uncharacteristically quiet.   I peeked into the backseat: his head was bowed and his lips were silently moving.

"What are you doing, Finn?"

"I pwaying."

"What are you praying for?"

"For da people in Heaven."

My heart swells.   "That's nice, honey."

"Yeah.   I was telling dem dat I won't see dem in Heaven because I'm nevah going to be a gwown up."

I don't know where this is coming from, because we haven't lost any family members recently, although our kitty, Coalie, died in November.   I asked him if he was praying about Coalie. 

"No, silly.   Coalie had da nine lives.  So he is wif another family now."

We have a little sand hourglass, the ones used in games as a timer.     Last night Finn placed it on the table to watch the sand run out.  He did this over and over.    I finally asked him what he was doing.

"When da sand runs out, somebody dies," he said.

I gulped.   Here I am again:  one of those parenting moments where I'm completely clueless.    Is this a big deal?   How do I respond?

"It's just a timer for a game, sweetie," I finally reply.   "Nobody dies when the sand runs out."

He looks up at me. "Yes dey do!"   He's grinning.   He doesn't look sad, or traumatized, so I decide to let it go.    A few minutes later I'm in the next room, and I hear his little singsong voice.   Curious to see what he's saying, I peek around the corner.   Oblivious to my prying eyes, Finn is looking at the hour glass, and singing a little prayer:

"It's okay, it's gonna be okay.   God and da angels are in Heaven, and da Holy Spirits, and da bootiful clouds and da people and God and da angels are wif you.     And da Holy Spirits.  And God loves you, and God loves me, and God loves......"  he pauses, ".... and God loves..... God loves.......  DONUTS!"    

I want to swoop in, hug him, tell him everything will be okay.   But, of course, I can't promise that.   And besides, he doesn't need comforting.  He's okay.    In his own little 4 year old way, he's working through his thoughts and fears.   Or maybe he isn't afraid at all, maybe I'm just projecting my own fears into his innocent world. 

At least I know he's paying attention, at least a little, in church.   And I have to admire his logic.  How did he figure out God loves donuts?   Because He serves them in the parish hall every Sunday after the service.   


Monday, February 22, 2010

Is That Lipstick On That Pig?

People fascinate me.    Whether you are a good friend or the guy who works at the post office, I'm always wondering: what makes you tick

I want to know all about you - what are your dreams, your fears, your idiosyncracies?   What keeps you up at night?   What do you love about yourself?  What do you hate?   I feel other peoples' feelings like they are my own.   If you're sad, I'll cry for you.   If you're jubilant, my heart soars.

 I have a harder time drumming up this kind of curiosity about myself, though.

I just finished a book by Christopher Kennedy Lawford called Moments of Clarity.   Lawford, who is a recovering alcoholic and addict, interviewed dozens of celebrites, politicians - people in the public eye - about the moment they knew they had a problem with addiction.   This is not the same thing as rock bottom, mind you.    A few of the people he interviewed had a moment of clarity about their addiction and proceeded to continue drinking or using for some time.    What Lawford was exploring was the moment they knew, with frightening lucidity, that substance abuse had taken the reins; that they were powerless over alcohol, drugs, or both.

This got me thinking about how difficult it can be to really know yourself.    We all experience those moments where we really see ourselves, stripped of pretense or showmanship.    Sometimes, for me, it's something small.  I get dressed up for a night out, and leave the house thinking I look really put together.   Later I'll catch a glimpse of myself reflected in a window, or a mirror, and think: what was I thinking, wearing this?    I will see how I was trying to project some image of myself that doesn't quite work.   That isn't me.

I do this with bigger things, too, like addiction and recovery.    I remember my own moment of clarity, the moment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had a problem with alcohol.  It happened in a flash.   Some lucid part of my brain broke through and shouted:  what are you doing?   This is no way to live!   It felt it like a punch in the gut.   As quickly as it came, it was gone, replaced by my carefully constructed justifications and rationales.   By my denial.   I continued drinking for two more years.

Oddly, in recovery it feels like the stakes are higher.   I feel, on some days, like the only thing between me and the web of addiction is my ability to try to be truthful with myself.    This can be exhausting.   Who wants to spend much time peeking into the darker corners of their psyche?   The temptation to overlook reality, to gloss over the parts that make me uncomfortable, is huge.  

I realize, now, that I can't always trust what I think.   Maybe I can't even usually trust what I think.  

In recovery, unanesthetized, the little bells that ring in my head that say something's off here, are harder to ignore.    I know that left to my own resources I can dress up any problem until it feels comfortable. Until it fits with my perception of myself, or how I'd like to be.   Until it makes me stop squirming.    All I can do to protect myself is open my mouth.   Rat myself out.    Turn to a trusted friend and say does this make sense to you?   

I believe a big part of my recovery, my healing, is finding my voice again, learning to trusting my intuition.  Taking some calculated risks, exploring new, exciting and sometimes uncomfortable things.   But not alone.  

No, never alone.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I strut into the coffee shop, my laptop slung over my shoulder in a hand-me-down carrying case.   I try to adopt a confident manner, like I do this sort of thing all the time, come to a wi-fi hot spot to do some writing.

I grab a cup of strong coffee, open my laptop and settle in comfortably.   I'm here to work on my book.    This is what writers do, right?   Do I look like a writer?   Should I be wearing spectacles, or a mock turtleneck?   Should I have sheaths of paper scattered about, covered in furious little notations?    

The coffee shop is full of families - Moms with their children trying to keep the wolf away from the door for an hour or so, taking the kids out to lunch.    I feel this irrational compulsion to explain myself to them:  I'm just faking it, I want to whisper.   I've got kids at home.  I'm a Mom, too.

Stop it, I admonish myself.    You are a writer.   Say it:  I'm a writer.   Louder!   I'M A WRITER!

I remember having a crisis of confidence when I went back to work part-time, when my youngest was 14 months old.    I felt like I was playing dress-up, putting on nylon stockings and a crisp ironed navy suit, taking the train into the city.    I sat with the other commuters and felt like a kid on bring-your-daughter-to-work day.    
I have no business being here, I thought.  I'm too rusty.  My brain has atrophied from four years of diaper changing and playdates.   The version of me that was a Business Person seemed a million miles away.    So I faked it for a while.   I put a brave smile on my face.   I changed my walk to something that looked more business-y to me.    I wore silk scarves.   I matched the bored, disinterested expressions of my fellow commuters, even though my stomach was full of butterflies.

Eventually, it felt more natural to me.   I didn't have to steel myself each morning, tell myself that I could do this.  I just did it.

In early recovery, I heard something that struck me.   Someone was speaking about his misfortunes, the wreckage of his past that he was working through, sober.   "I was thinking to myself, why me?"  he said.   "Then suddenly I thought, why NOT me?  What makes me so special that I get a free pass out of misery?"

I completely identified with what he said.  I had no trouble believing that any misery that came my way was well deserved.    

I can come up with a million reasons why I can't do something. Sometimes I don't even have a good reason. It's just that I can't, I think.

Today I'm trying to use my powers for good instead of evil.   Why can't I be a writer?   Why can't I just go for it?   And when the You-Can't Committee in my head speaks up in unison, I go to a coffee shop and pretend to be a writer.   And you know what?   It's a good start.   I'm writing, aren't I?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Coming In For A Landing

It has been one of those weeks.  

It's school vacation week - didn't we just have school vacation?    We didn't have any grand plans - just a lot of unstructured time around the house bumping into each other.   Greta was really sick in the days before the break, and we were in and out of the doctor's office all week.  Just as she started to feel better, Finn got sick. And then I got sick.   Nothing serious - no fevers or anything - just a bad head cold and cough that has us moping around feeling icky.    Just sick enough that getting out to go do stuff feels like too much, but staying home feels antsy.    I feel like I've been staring at the interior of my messy house for ages.

My mind feels like a flock of birds zooming around looking for a place to land.   I have a lot I want to be doing - jewelry to make, writing to do, but each day - each hour- is a series of frustrating stops and starts.   It took fifteen minutes just to type these two paragraphs.

The mother-guilt creeps in, slowly suffocating me.   Too much television, too much computer time.  I can practically hear their little brains rotting away.   

It is so hard to just stop.    To hunker down, get over our colds, spend some down time together.   We crawled to the movies yesterday, and even that was exhausting.    This morning the kids and I colored pictures for a bit, and I tried to settle in, just be there, without a lot of success.  

My expectations and my reality keep colliding.    I'm struggling with a major case of the 'shoulds'.  We should have planned a vacation, I should be getting more done, we should be out doing educationally enriching things, I should be more organized.    The reality is that we can't afford a big vacation, we're sick, and we're doing all we can.   Why is that so hard to accept?     Life on life's freaking terms, and all that.

I have moments, though, of extreme gratitude.   Little things here and there that remind me that everything could be so much worse.    Sunday, before the sickies hit, my husband took the kids to his parents' house so I could get some alone time, check a few items off my to-do list.    That night I got in the car to go to a meeting, and the battery was dead.    I was stuck.   Immediately this thought flitted across my mind:   this would have been a major problem if I was still drinking.  If I was stuck home alone with no alcohol and no way of getting more.   Suddenly, instead of feeling stuck I felt really, really free.

This week, for all its frustration and inertia, was exactly the sort of situation that would have sent me spiraling, sent me straight to the bottle for relief from boredom, from resentment and anger.    It occurred to me this morning that I didn't think about drinking - not once - the whole week.    That is a miracle.

We'll get through.   The kids will go back to school next week and I will get my routine back.   Even though we're not getting a lot accomplished this week, I'm here.  I'm present.    And just writing all this, airing it all out, has given my mental flock of birds a place to land. 

It is, as they say, what it is.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One Voice At A Time

"As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence." - Benjamin Franklin

Take a moment to go over to Violence Unsilenced, founded and moderated by Maggie, Dammit - an incredible woman who, along with thousands of others, speaks out to shed a light on domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault by giving survivors a voice. Today is the one year anniversary of this incredible movement. Check out their anniversary video here. Violence Unsilenced brings peoples' hearts and voices together to break down the walls of shame, isolation and pain. It is grace in motion, and it is beautiful. Read, comment and show your support.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snapshots ~ Before

It’s 11:30am on a gorgeous, crisp fall day. I’m sitting outside, soaking in the bright September sun with ten other mothers. It’s our usual Wednesday morning playgroup, and we’re chatting, sipping coffee, keeping one eye on our kids playing on the nearby swing set. I have a moment of clarity, a snapshot of myself: my long blonde hair is freshly frosted, swept up in a fashionable clip. I’m dressed in jeans and a colorful sweater, legs crossed, coffee cup perched in one hand. A friend is telling a funny story about her three year old’s latest tantrum. I see myself tilt my head back, laughing with the other Moms. It hits me, like a punch in the gut: I’m such a fraud.

Oh, God, if they only knew.

Greta, who is two, calls out to me to push her on the swings. I flash the other Moms a knowing glance – so much for adult time – and walk carefully over to the swings. I’m grateful for the interruption: my hands were starting to tremble, ever so slightly, and I was having a hard time holding my coffee steady.

I push Greta on the swings, her laughter coming to me as though from a great distance. My head pounds, my gut churns, and I’m starting to sweat.

“Two more minutes, then we have to go,” I whisper to Greta.

She immediately begins to wail. “NOOOOO! I wanna STAY!” The other mothers glance over, sympathetic.

I grit my teeth and smile wider. “I know you’re disappointed, but we really have to go.”

She jumps off the swing and throws herself on the ground, crying. I’ve got to get out of here. I scoop Greta up, and she clings to me, sobbing. Her cries cut me to the bone, the other mothers’ stares feel like lasers. Do they know? Can they tell? They are all smiling at me, wishing me luck. I give a quick laugh – oh, two year olds, what can you do? - and wave as I scuttle to the car.

I drive home, my hands gripping the wheel, my thoughts racing. I’ll be okay once I’m home. I just need to get home.

I put Greta down for her nap, humming to her until she falls asleep. My hands are shaking in earnest, now, and my headache is blinding. I head downstairs and open the fridge, telling myself I’m going to have a glass of milk to settle my stomach. My eyes fall on the one-quarter full bottle of Chardonnay, glistening at the back of the top shelf. I reach for the milk, and grab the bottle of wine instead. Just one sip, to take the edge off, I think. It’s not like I’m going to get drunk in the middle of the afternoon. Just one to feel better. I take a long swig, and my stomach heaves. I wait a moment, wondering if it will stay down. It does. I take another swig, and the shaking in my hands stops. My body relaxes, my mind is blissfully quiet.

An hour later the bottle is empty. How did that happen? I don’t feel drunk, or even a little buzzed. I feel normal, finally. Without thinking about what I’m doing, I go to the sink, fill the empty bottle one-quarter full with water from the tap and shove it in the back of the fridge. I’ll have to buy some more later, I think. Before Steve gets home I’ll replace the water with wine, and pour the rest down the sink because tonight I’m not going to drink.

And at that moment, I mean it.

My daughter wakes up from her nap, and we sit on the floor and do puzzles, play games. My body is warm, glowing, and my patience is infinite. Again, a snapshot flashes through my brain: a happy, involved mother playing with her child. A good mother, an engaged mother. Not an alcoholic mother. I think: alcoholic mothers don’t play with their kids like this.

At 6pm, we sit down to dinner. I’m smiling, slightly flushed, animated. My husband and I chat about our day and Greta babbles along with us, pleased at her growing vocabulary. I have replaced the bottle in the fridge, up to the same level as before, pouring three-quarters of it into a large water bottle now stashed in the bathroom closet. Steve and I have a glass of wine with dinner. I have promised him I’ll cut back on my drinking, so I make sure he doesn’t notice when I duck away to the bathroom to nip from the water bottle filled with wine.

It’s my turn to put Greta to bed. I’m in an expansive, buoyant mood, and I make a game out of brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas. I kiss her good night, tell her I love her, and head back downstairs thinking: see? I can control my drinking. I played with my kid, fixed dinner, put her to bed. I am so much more patient after a glass or two of wine.

It’s 10pm, and I come out of a grey-out. I’m yelling at my husband about something – what? – I can’t remember. He looks at me with hurt and disgust and heads upstairs to bed. I’m crying, but I don’t know why. I turn on some sad music, flop on the couch and sob. Nobody understands me. I’m unlovable. I need a drink. I tiptoe to the bathroom and rummage around under the folded towels until I find the hidden water bottle. It’s empty. I begin to panic. I can’t be out, I’ll never make it, and then I remember another stash in the back of the coat closet.

One last snapshot: me, on my hands and knees in the coat closet, drinking straight from the open bottle, full of relief that there is more wine.

I think: tomorrow is a new day. It’s just that today was extra stressful. I won't drink tomorrow.

I don’t know it, of course, but I still have two more years of tomorrows to go.

Twice Monthly Giveaway - New Item!

Congratulations to Corinne, who won the Swarvoski Square Ring! Thank you to everyone who entered.

This week's giveaway is for the Three Peas in a Pod Necklace:

Click on the top picture to see the listing in my Etsy shop. To enter, please leave a comment below saying you would like to enter. Please let an email address where you can be contacted if you win! If you are more comfortable emailing me directly, please do so at:

This giveaway is open internationally.

The winner will be chosen on March 1st; my daughter draws a name from a hat.

Thank you!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love and Mawage

Sunday is Valentine's Day, and love is in the air here. Lately, Finn is obsessed with marriage. He's four, and you can't be too prepared for these big life decisions. Greta has gone from being a little girl in a saggy diaper singing along to the Wiggles to a mooning pre-tween right under my nose.

I don't know where Finn's obsession with marriage came from, but last week he started peppering me with questions:

"Do I hafta get mahweed?" (every time he says that I think of that scene from Princess Bride: Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...)

"If I wanna mahwee Tim, can I?"

"Do I hafta kiss when I get mahweed? Cause dat's GWOSS."

"Too many girls wanna mahwee me. So I'm gonna mahwee dem all. Dat's okay, wight?"

There is one girl who has consistently held a special place in his heart, though. He has been proclaiming his affection for her for over a year. He hasn't told her, yet, which is probably for the best. The girl he wants to marry most is Ren. Damomma's Ren. The Dialobical Genius Ren. The one who could eat him for lunch and look adorable doing it?

The other day, in the car on the way to school, he says for the umpteenth time: "I'm gonna mahwee Wen."

Greta: "I don't think Ren's Dad is going to like that, Finn."

Finn: "I don't want to mahwee her Dad, I want to mahwee WEN!"

It's a match made in heaven. Finn is utterly, completely content being stagehand to Ren's Director. Greta was a big fan of the idea, because then Ren's sister Mary, who is one of her best friends, would be her sister-in-law. I amused myself by picturing what sort of wedding Ren would want to have. It's hard to say, but I know there won't be any tulle involved.

And Damomma and I would be the mothers-in-law. How freaking awesome would that be? I've already picked out the hat I'll wear to their wedding:

They'd be adorable together wouldn't they?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smalltalk Warfare

There is a question, a common question, that I detest.

It's an innocent question, asked by people I've just met at a dinner party, a playgroup or committee meeting. I meet someone, we engage in the perfunctory and polite introductions, there is that awkward lull, and then I'm asked The Question:

"What do you do?"

I shuffle my feet uncomfortably, my mind casting around for an answer.

"Umm, er, I'm a Mom?" I say, shrugging apologetically.

Why do I feel so apologetic about saying I'm a Mom - like I should have a better, more interesting response? For some reason it feels wrong to answer that question with lively bits of information about myself - how I have a little jewelry business or I love to write - because that doesn't feel like I'm answering the question properly. Once I say I'm a mother, though, the conversation is always about the kids. Always. I feel like I slip into a kind of invisibility, like I'm an anecdote or an afterthought.

When someone asks me what I do, my subconscious starts screaming: I do everything and nothing! Why, what's it to you?

For some reason, that question feels like a challenge hurled at my feet. I'm defensive about it.

I'm learning, in recovery, to pay attention to things that make me defensive, because behind the defensiveness lurks something I'm not paying attention to, something I'm not owning.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why it's a mine field for me, this innocent question. It's because I spent most of my adult life, my pre-kid life, answering that question without giving it a second thought. "Me? Oh, I'm an Executive Recruiter for a Global Firm," or "I'm a District Manager for an Insurance Company." Easy peasy. I didn't get all shuffley and apologetic.

I get prickly because I feel like I should be all chest-thumpy about being a mother, that I should want to wear it like a badge of honor. I can't say the truth: Oh, Jeez. You had to ask. Well, I'm raising two beautiful kids and that should be enough, right? But it doesn't always feel like enough, but I feel like it SHOULD be enough and I feel a little lost some days. I think I'm having an identity crisis. I'm trying to strike that balance between being a Mom and Having A Life. I have a right to both, right? Don't you think so?

So I just talk about the kids. It's simpler, really.

What we do doesn't define who we are, it doesn't paint the full picture, and yet we wrap our identities around it, measure our own worth around it. When I worked in Corporate America this didn't bother me, because I could shed what I did like a cloak and do something else anytime I wanted to.

Becoming a mother has changed the game on me. It comes naturally to wrap my identity up in what I do, but motherhood isn't something I can ever shed like a cloak. Nor would I want to. But it's a journey to learn how to be a Mom and not lose myself in the process. I drank over this for years, feeling stuck and resentful, like I wasn't allowed to be anything but a Mom. Even when I worked, I was the Mom Who Worked. I mourned the loss of my free, independent and ever-changing identity.

Now I'm a Mom Who Makes Jewelry and Writes. The only difference is I have acceptance that I'm a Mom first. I embrace it, now. It doesn't define me, it's just the Most Important Thing.

If it were up to me, though, I'd eliminate that question - what do you do? - entirely. From now on, I wish everyone would ask: "What are you becoming?"

Because that's what really matters.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm So Not The Boss Of Me

Sometimes, when I'm feeling wistful, I'll wish that I could get addicted to things that are good for me. I seem to be developing a little problem with Everlasting Gobstoppers, for instance. How come I can't become obsessed with something like hugging trees or exercise?

Speaking of exercise, you may all throw me a little parade because I got up at 5:30am - 5:30am!!! - this morning to go work out. Turns out there is this whole little universe of people who get up early to do healthy things. Who knew?

It began when my friend Jackie sent me a Facebook message a few days ago asking if I'd meet her at the gym this morning at 6am. After nearly choking on my Everlasting Gobstopper, I thought about it. Why not? Why can't I be one of those people who gets up early to go do things? I could think of it like a cultural experiment - who ARE those people and what do they look like? Before I could stop myself I sent her a message back, saying I would meet her. There. Now I was committed. I don't mind letting myself down, but other people are a different story. Jackie was counting on me. Her whole world would crumble if I wasn't there, right?

For the past year Steve has been asking me, with varying degrees of politeness and subtlety, to work out. He can find an opening for this topic in any conversation:

Me: "How bout those Red Sox, huh?"

Steve: "Yeah. They must work out a lot."

Me: "Are you calling me fat?"

Or this:

Steve: "I've got this situation with a client I really need to work out."

Me: "Are you calling me fat?"

Or this:

Steve: "I wonder if we'll ever work out the situation in the Middle East and no-I'm-not-calling-you-fat."

I'm a little touchy about the topic of exercise. I know it's good for me. I know it gives me more energy, I'm nicer and more in balance when I'm working out. If sitting around wishing you felt like working out burned calories, I'd be a super model.

I've learned something about myself in the past couple of years, though. If I pressure myself to do something out of obligation, or because I feel like I have to, I simply won't do it. I can make a quiet rebellion out of anything.

Steve figured out a while ago that asking me if I'm going to the gym is a dead end. With him off my back, I started arguing with myself about it: I don't have time, I don't need pressure to do one more thing, nobody tells me what to do, dammit! Not even me!

So I waited. I let myself off the hook completely, told myself I don't have to work out if I don't want to, that I'm fine just the way I am. Pressure's off. Sure enough, the next day I get Jackie's message and I think, "Sure? Why not?"

It was Steve who sealed the deal, though. Last night I nonchalantly asked him to set the alarm clock for 5:30am, like it was no big thing.

"WHAT?!?" he gaped. "5:30am? YOU?"

"Sure, why not?" I replied. "I told Jackie I'd meet her."

"You didn't leave yourself a little trapdoor? A little way out?" he asked.

"Well, I did mention that Greta isn't feeling well, and that if she is worse tomorrow morning I may not be able to go."

"You are SO not going."

"Yes I am."

"I will eat my left eyeball if you go. Seriously."

"Get out the knife and fork, baby, because I'm going."

Nobody tells me what I can't do, either.

Well played, Steve. Well played.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nano-Nano Technology

I'm sitting here trying to watch the Super Bowl. I so do not care about the Super Bowl. I just don't want to be left out of the buzz about the commercials, like I was last year. Everywhere I went people were laughing knowingly with each other, like the world had experienced one big inside joke and I missed out. So I'm watching the commercials, dammit. I want to fit in. I really do.

I have to come clean, though, and admit that I don't understand half of what is going on on any given day. I'm not hip. Do they still say hip?

Confession #1: I don't know how to text. I've never texted (okay, once I did, under duress, and it took me half an hour to type one sentence). Occasionally one of my friends will forget I live in the dark ages and will send me a text. My phone makes this strange beeping sound, and words - WORDS! - appear on the screen. I run around a lot flapping my arms in excitement, but I don't know how to text them back. Even if I did know how to text, I don't know the 'code', or the 'jargon' or whatever the hell it's called. Until about three months ago I honestly thought BFF meant something really, really dirty. And I thought FML meant something sweet and nice. See? I'm a lost cause. If you had to Google FML to figure out what it means - call me. We can start a support group.

Confession #2: I don't know what Bluetooth means. I know it's something cool, important people have which makes me want some Bluetooth, just on principle, but I have no idea what it is.

Confession #3: While we're on the topic of technology, please don't make me talk about computers, ever. I went out to research laptops recently. A kid literally one-third my age was asking me how many 'gigs' I wanted, and if I was interested in 'hyperweave' technology. "Gigs, yeah, gigs. Cool. Yeah, get me some of those," I stammered. "I basically just need it for typing," I admitted. "Do people still call it typing?" He looked at me like I had lost my mind, so I tried to cover with a little humor. "Can I listen to albums on it?" "Is it compatible with my hearing aid?" He didn't laugh, but he did speak a little louder.

Confession #4: I don't watch LOST. I've never seen it, because it's premise is based on a plane crash, and that is all I need to know about it. I don't do plane crashes. Speaking of television, I've never seen 'Glee', or 'Heroes', or '30 Rock'. Since we're being honest, here - want to know my favorite show that isn't Celebrity Rehab? Dancing With The Stars. Go ahead - de-friend me or unfollow or do whatever it is you have to do. I just can't pretend anymore.

Confession #5: Twitter makes me nervous. I feel such pressure. 140 characters or less? Seriously? Also, I don't get enough validation on Twitter. I put some little 140-character-or-less message out into Twitterdom, and then I refresh over and over like a junkie wondering if anyone will reply. Did I do it right? Is anyone out there? At least on Facebook people freaking answer me. I am way too needy for Twitter. I'm Tweedy. If you want to keep me from the depths of humiliation and despair give a little shout-out (do they still say shout-out?) to @onecraftyellie. Who knows, the life you save may be mine.

But all is not lost. I can rock Facebook like nobody's business. I finally know what people are talking about when they say "there's an app for that". I will occasionally say "FAIL" or "WIN". Besides, I read somewhere that Mood Rings and Lava Lamps are making a comeback. So I just need to sit tight. I was way cool in the seventies.


Friday, February 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday - Heavy on the Potty Mouth

I saw '7 Quick Takes' at The Mom Job ; it is an idea hosted by The Conversion Diary . All you bloggers out there can click here to go to the Conversion Diary and do your own! So here goes:


Finn is getting creative about ways to avoid going to school. Monday I heard him moaning in the next room, saying "Momma, I can't go to school. I willy sick. I got da spots." I came around the corner to find this:

Yes, that is permanent marker. And it's on the other side of his face, too. My little Einstein.


Greta said she wanted to draw a picture of me the other day. She said she was going to draw me, on a mountain top, with snow falling all around. She forgot to mention that she would be including one other little detail: what I am apparently thinking about when I'm standing on this mountain:


After a week of sickness, I ended up with the world's largest cold sore on my lip. Seriously, it's big. It has been kind of amusing to talk to people this week and watch them studiously avoid trying to stare at it. Last night I was lecturing Greta about one thing or another, when she put her hand up, and said "Stop, Mom. I just can't take you seriously with that THING on your face."


Parenting question I couldn't answer #435, from Greta: "Mom, who decides which words are bad words? Can I make up my own bad word and say it when I'm mad? Like, why can't 'glap' be a bad word?"


Sunday after church Greta is giggling to herself. I ask her why, and she says "Sometimes? When I'm in church? And it's quiet? I want to yell out "pooooooooop!"


Me to Greta: "Sometimes? When I'm in church? And it's quiet? I want to do that, too..."


It is 10pm, and I poke my head in the kids' room to check on them before heading to bed. Greta is wide awake, staring at the ceiling. "What's wrong?" I ask. "Can't sleep?" She looks at me and rolls her eyes. "No, I can't," she says. "It feels like my brain is doing the Cha-Cha."

It makes me so glapping mad when that happens to me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Behold the Angry Squirrel, For He Brings Great Wisdom

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person." - Mignon McLaughlin

When Steve and I were newly married, we took a trip; a long weekend getaway to a beautiful fishing camp in Maine. It was one of those all-inclusive-yet-rustic establishments - complete with three meals a day, fishing guides, and a romantic log cabin on a lake.

Each night we went to the communal dining hall, sat at the same table and gazed fondly into each other's eyes. We were tired but content, and bubbling with conversation about the day. A much older couple sat at the table next to us three nights in a row. Steve and I surreptitiously watched them out of the corner of our eyes, taking in how they just sat there quietly, looking around room, sipping their wine, silently chewing their food. At the end of the meal he would look at her and say "Done?" She would nod, and they left to retire for the evening. For three nights running, they exchanged a total of three words between them.

"That will never be us," I whispered to Steve conspiratorially. "We will never run out of things to say to each other. How sad."

Fast forward ten years. Steve and I are out to dinner on one of our twice monthly date nights. It is not until we're enjoying our dinner that I realize we haven't spoken in about five minutes, and I hadn't even noticed. We're sitting together in a comfortable, companionable silence, grateful for an hour's relief from the chaos of home. I smile quietly to myself, thinking about that night long ago, full of expectations of what life, marriage, would be like. How easily expectations can set you up to be let down, when real beauty is right in front of you.

Case in point: backtrack eleven years. Steve and I have been dating six years, and we're heading away for the weekend. I'm beside myself with excitement, absolutely certain that he will propose on this trip. We've been talking about marriage a lot recently, he knows I'm ready, and he has been dropping all sorts of hints that he has something special in store for me. I have it all mapped out in my head - the romantic getaway, the roaring fire, Steve down on one knee, the soft velvet box containing a sparkling diamond. I can hardly wait.

We arrive at the cabin, settle in and light a fire. The moment comes, he gulps and looks at me nervously. "I have something for you," he says, fidgeting. "I hid it so you wouldn't find it until I was ready. Why don't you have a look in the Backgammon game?"

I am shaking, I'm so excited. I open the Backgammon game and sure enough, there is the soft velvet box. Steve isn't down on one knee, but what the heck - I'm a modern woman. Everything else is perfect - just as I expected. I draw a deep breath and open the box, preparing to squeal with happiness. In the box is a pretty gold band with a little sapphire on it.

I look at him incredulously. "What is this?" I stammer.

"It's a promise ring," he says happily. "It is my promise to you that we'll get married some day, that I will always love you."

I'm furious. I cry and cry, so angry that things haven't turned out as I expected - as I practically demanded. But sure enough, one year later he proposes at Fenway Park, and a year after that we're married. It all worked out as it was meant to, not as I wanted it to.

Fast forward another five years - it is the Christmas following our fifth anniversary. Steve has been hinting, again, that he has a special gift for me. My mind goes into overdrive - is it a five year anniversary ring? A sparkling diamond band? I ask him if it is jewelry, and he smiles knowingly. I can't wait for Christmas morning when, sure enough, at the bottom of my stocking is a little velvet box. My heart leaps. I open the box slowly, wallowing in the anticipation. I find this:

"Isn't it great?" he asks, smiling.

I won't get in to my reaction - suffice it to say it wasn't graceful and it wasn't pretty. I ruined a beautiful Christmas morning because things didn't turn out like I expected.

I now think of this pin as the Angry Squirrel of Expectations. It's a reminder not to get too caught up in what I want life to bring me. That life will bring me what I need, even if it is in the form of one pissed-off-silver-plated-acorn-carrying squirrel pin.

This year at Christmas, when Steve handed me a little velvet box, I simply smiled. I didn't know what to expect, and it didn't matter. Greta and Finn knew what was in there, and were standing next to Steve looking at me expectantly as I opened it.

Inside was my wedding ring, the same one I had worn since we were married, but it was polished to perfection, gleaming and beautiful. Ten years of wear and tear had damaged it, made it scratched, bent, dull looking and chipped. A few weeks before Steve had asked me if he could borrow it to size something for me, and instead of letting my mind go into overdrive - a new band? a bigger diamond? a sparkling guard ring? I simply handed it over to him and forgot about it.

The irony wasn't lost on me: it was what I always had, only better.

Just like him.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What It's Like

It is 6:15pm on a Saturday night. I'm stirring noodles in a steaming pot, and I'm angry. Finn streaks by naked, screeching at the top of his lungs. Greta is whining: Moooooom, I'm hungry, I don't want nooooooodles, over and over. Dishes are piled in the sink, the dog is barking, and my husband is in his workshop, tinkering away at God-knows-what. My head is in overdrive, a low roar forming in the back of my brain.

"FINN HIT ME!" Greta wails, and I cringe. Her hair is a mess, the kids need a bath, there is a huge pile of laundry to be folded. And the dishes need to be washed. Again. God, I'm so angry.

I want to run away, I want to scream. I want a drink.

Just one. I just want that warm glow, that peaceful, relaxed feeling that creeps into my limbs after the first few sips. I want to quiet that roar in my head; I just want to care a little less for an hour, or two.


Shutupshutupshutupshutupshup, I think. God, just please shut up and leave me be.

Now both kids are crying. The dog barks louder. I snap.

"THAT. IS. IT!" I yell, and the kids' eyes go wide. I slam the spoon down on the counter and march out of the kitchen.

I storm upstairs into my room and throw myself on the bed. I'm too angry to cry. Images swirl in my head: happy, normal couples sitting down to dinner with a glass of wine in hand, laughing contentedly. I hate that I can't drink. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

It has gone quiet downstairs - no barking dog, no screaming kids. I hear my husband come up from his workshop. I hear murmuring, and the television comes on at a low volume.

I sigh. I try to think of all the things I've learned. I search for gratitude, for acceptance. All I can find is mean, red anger. I don't want to let go of my anger, I want to hug it to my chest until I explode.

I close my eyes, and lose myself in thoughts of a drink. I picture the weight of the wine glass in my hand, the sweet buttery smell of a good Chardonnay. I let myself drink it, in my head. I feel my body relax. I smile. I paint a mental picture of what I wish drinking was like for me, and I mourn it for a few minutes.

Then, finally, I do what I was told to do. I think through the drink. I mentally fast forward an hour, or two. I picture myself crouched in my bathroom, grabbing in the back of the cabinet for my stashed bottle, because my husband is done with his nightly drink and I don't want to stop. I can't stop. I've never been able to stop.

There is nothing in a drink for me.

I go back downstairs. My husband is stirring the noodles, Finn is dressed and the kids are happily watching a show.

"Okay now?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.

And I am okay. It is going to be okay.

Twice Monthly Giveaway - New Item!

Congratulations to Abby, who won the Firelight Ring! Thanks to everyone who entered!

The next giveaway is the cleverly named Square Swarovski Ring. Made from a sparkling 8mm square swarovski crystal and a sterling silver bead frame, this ring is available in three different colors:

Click on any picture to see the ring listed in my Etsy shop. To enter, please comment below indicating you would like to enter, and please provide an email address and which color you prefer (amethyst, aquamarine or sage green). If you are more comfortable emailing me directly, please do so at:

The winner will be chosen at random on February 15th; my daughter draws a name from a hat. I will email you if you win!